I have always been fascinated with the Catskills. It was a go to destination for many first and second generation immigrants who wanted to escape the heat in the summer and who were shut out of more established get away spots like the Hamptons.
Assessable mainly by car the, Catskills offered fresh air, cool breezes and community.
Nestled in the mountains of Sullivan, Greene, Ulster and Delaware counties, it is anchored by 700,000 acres of preserved land.
It’s beauty was first documented by the famed Hudson River School of art and painter Thomas Cole. Writers such as Washington Irving helped romanticize its allure with stories like Rip Van Winkle and it quickly became a destination for the well heeled in the 19th century.
Starting in the 1920’s, immigrant farmers who were trying to make ends meet started opening up their doors to people from their communities who wanted to escape the city. They operated rooming houses and soon found that that could be a lucrative business. These boarding houses grew into massive resorts that attracted people from working class, immigrant communities and their newly bourgeois children. They had their heyday from the 1940’s to the 1970’s and are featured in Dirty Dancing and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Be it the invention of air conditioning, cheap flights, assimilation, debt burden or rising divorce rates. Almost all of the large resorts closed in the 1970s and 1980s and many of them have been torn down. I never got to visit them in their prime, but became obsessed with photographs of them once abandoned. I always imagined, what they must of been and dreamed about what they could become.
Fortunately, some of the grandest still remain and many of the smaller hotels and private homes have been given new life as boutique hotels and venues for weddings and retreats.
The Catskills is a wonderful destination for weddings. Most venues are within a three hour drive and it’s absolutely beautiful. Enough tastemakers have escaped from New York to create spaces that are unique, offer exceptional service and are appealing to any sophisticat. Many of them also double as hotels with accommodations open to the public so you can schedule a little weekend get away or romantic anniversary without having to buy out the whole property for the weekend.
Here is a short list of some of my favorites. New venues are opening up every year so I am sure there will be more to come.
Livingston Manor, NY
Cool boutique hotel with hiking trails, greenhouses and all the comforts of a lodge vacation. Situated in Livingston
Manor, NY, this Sullivan County hotel is all about the details. I love the cozy lounge room with its danish modern fireplace. Woolen blankets hang on the wall for an evening snuggle by the fire. The newly renovated event space can accommodate up to 150 people and there is plenty of room for a ceremony inside or out. With original, wood paneled, shuffle boards, pool tables and downstairs bar, this is a homage to the great resorts and to the places where the people who worked at them liked to party. It even kept original sherbert colored sinks and tubs! They happily arrange off-site activities for your guests, and nearby air BNBs ensure that everyone has a place to stay. Flyfishing lessons anyone?
New Paltz, NY
Resort With a capital R. This Victorian queen is the hotel to rival all hotels. Imagine if the grand Budapest stayed grand. This resort dating back to the 1860s was built on noble foundations. It played an integral part of the land conservation movement, Native American rights, and international laws. Rumor has it that this is the hotel where Stephen King stayed when he was inspired to write the Shining (sorry Stanley hotel) Thomas Mann was also a guest, so perhaps this was the muse for Magic Mountain as well. There are several spots for weddings including lakeside, Victorian gardens and Mountain Views. A good part of the property is a private reserve with miles of hiking trails and jaw dropping view.
Well worth a visit. When dining, Jackets suggested, not required.
Big Indian, NY
A little throwback to the heyday of Woodstock and the 1960’s this eclectic venue has a lot to offer. It reminds me of a cool uncle who is always traveling to unique places and who is perpetually a bachelor. He has second homes on Fire Island and in Provincetown, but always has a girlfriend. It’s newly built event space and guest cottages are terrific. It is a sprawling campus has accommodations ranging from traditional hotel rooms to vacation houses and yurts, yes yurts. Comfort for everyone from mom and her sisters to your bohemian college roommate. Sometimes Full Moon is an event venue, sometimes it hosts learning retreats for notable musicians, aspiring musicians and super fans with nightly fireside jams. I love the honkytonk, private speakeasy where I would certainly want to host a raging karaoke after party with a live band.
This sweet venue was once the summer home of mayonnaise mogul Richard Hellman. Even though you may not like mayonnaise, you will love this venue. It has a handful of guest rooms for a weekend get away and the main building has stunning 220 degree views. The three season pavilion is literally cantilevered off the mountain and has amazingly stunning views and can accommodate up to 180 seated guests.
This modern retreat is a relative newcomer and a favorite of mine. It’s an elevated experience for the 21st century. Tiny cottages are hidden in the landscape and feature epic floor to ceiling windows that make you feel like you are camping in the woods. The main pavilion has miles of views of both the Catskills and the Berkshires. It’s modern, scandanivan inspired styling is the perfect backdrop for wild and rustic decor. I love the practical aspects of many heated bathrooms, separate bride and grooms suites, lounge for children, huge catering kitchen and remote control blinds that offer the ultimate party reveal. It’s easy access to the train in Hudson, New York and close proximity to the highway, makes it very accessible for out of town guests.
Other notable venues:
The Lumberyard 350 Guests, Catskill, New York
The Kaaterskill 150 Guests, Catskill, New York
Roxbury Farm 120 Guests, Roxbury, NY
Handsome Hollow 150 Guests, Long Eddy, NY
Foxfire Mountain House 150 Guests, Mt. Tremper, NY
Blooming Hill Farm 200 Guests, Blooming Grove, NY
Crested Hen Farms 150 Guests, Highfalls, NY